Vestibular Decompensation Following COVID-19 Infection in a Person With Compensated Unilateral Vestibular Loss: A Rehabilitation Case Study

Angela R. Weston, Grayson Doar, Leland E. Dibble, Brian J. Loyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Purpose: Surgical removal of a vestibular schwannoma (vestibular schwannoma resection; VSR) results in a unilateral vestibular hypofunction with complaints of dizziness and imbalance. Although the anatomic lesion is permanent, recovery of balance and diminution of dizziness occurs through central neurophysiologic compensation. Compensation of the system is maintained through daily activity. Unfortunately, interruption of stimulus, such as decreased activities due to illness, can cause decompensation. Decompensation is described as the return of symptoms consistent with that experienced during the initial insult/injury (eg, dizziness, oscillopsia, balance difficulty). This case study describes a reoccurrence of vestibular dysfunction in a person with a history of VSR following hospitalization and protracted recovery from a COVID-19 infection. It further documents her recovery that may be a result of vestibular rehabilitation. Case Description: A 49-year-old woman (M.W.) with a surgical history of VSR (10 years prior) and a medical history of significant COVID-19 infection, resulting in an intensive care unit stay and prolonged use of supplemental oxygen, presented to physical therapy with persistent dizziness and imbalance. The video head impulse test confirmed unilateral vestibular hypofunction. Intervention: M.W. attended biweekly vestibular rehabilitation for 6 weeks and completed daily home exercises. Outcomes: At discharge, M.W. demonstrated improvements in patient-reported outcomes (Dizziness Handicap Inventory), functional testing (MiniBEST, 2-Minute Walk Test), and gaze stability measures (video head impulse testing, dynamic visual acuity). Discussion: Vestibular decompensation preluded by a COVID-19 infection caused a significant decrease in functional mobility. Vestibular rehabilitation targeted at gaze and postural stability effectively reduced symptoms and facilitated recovery to M.W.'s pre-COVID-19 level of function. Video Abstract available for more insights from the authors (see the Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1 available at:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-118
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • COVID-19
  • central compensation
  • vestibular decompensation
  • vestibular rehabilitation
  • vestibular schwannoma
  • COVID-19/complications
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Vestibular Diseases
  • Dizziness/etiology
  • Postural Balance/physiology
  • Female
  • Neuroma, Acoustic/complications
  • Vertigo/etiology


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